Saturday, 21 November 2015

Art in the Capital

It was a busy weekend. Two venues came alive in the capital - Art Abu Dhabi opened at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Wednesday and Warehouse 421, the new art district by the waters at Mina Zayed, previewed on Thursday night.

After closely looking at all artists living, born and/or gone from the UAE... I realise I am a fan of two true gems of visual art who currently nourish the local scene by their pure ceative opulence. I feel fortunate to have met both of them during my life here! The two amazing artists am speaking of are both born and raised in the UAE - hugely popular Abdul Qader Al Rais and soon-to-be-very-popular-mind-you Saif Mhaisen. Al Rais popular for his monumental art works in palaces and distinguished public spaces [but I love his very vibrant recent abstract works more... scroll down to see!] and Saif for his super-real portraits [down below].

Saif's is one of the chosen few artists for the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship - a part of the Warehouse 421 project. Saif will soon be on a scholarship MFA programme in the States and is spoilt for choice - making up his mind whether Rhodes will be his new home. Lucky!! And well deserved!

The fellowship gives much importance to the art process. The process was walked through by another artist who is also a part of this programme - talented and warm-hearted Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi - who carefully collects nostalgia from his childhood in Al Ain. "Everything is in our childhood. The way we grew up plays all the part into all our expressions. And of course art," says Shamsi. His collected/found objects on display shows how art around him changed with time. "The individuality of the local convenience shop names/sign boards have disappeared with the advent of black and green 'Baqala' neon signage, as per municipality's uniformity/standardising norms," laments the artist.

The best parts of this venue are that it is by the beautiful waters of Mina and is open until 11pm... and you can take your children too! It is true that it reminds one of D3 in Dubai also Al Serkal Avenue a bit! Is it fashionable to reuse containers to showcase art? It doesn't quiet fancy me. May be because am claustrophobic. Art meant to be 'out of the box' must not ideally be locked in, if you ask me. Btw I spoke to one of the participants who was dragging an air cooler into one container-converted-gallery here just before closing, and he said "yeah! we have to keep the fan on all night - it is wood and delicate art - cannot leave it to nature". Of course!
Naqsh Collective showcases unique inlay art forms that can make your interiors sophisticated and artsy at the same time! They are showing at the new art space Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi.
Naqsh explores language of embroidery, unifying this important element of Jordanian culture with minimal yet functional structures. Naqsh design house also supports the women’s community within the Palestinian refugee camps in Amman, Jordan.

 Jordanian artists Nisreen Abu Dail & Nermeen Abu Dail of Naqsh

Lot of people think that steel mountain behind me is Louvre! Hell no! It is the UAE Pavilion under construction... just opposite Manarat Al Saadiyat
You CAN make art from an empty can... just put a wig on it and tada! This was found in this edition of Art Abu Dhabi
This recycled piece of art stole my heart! The Japanese art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is all about turning ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. This artist has welded ceramic pieces from the trash using 24ct gold... to perhaps silently say that broken is better than new! And there far behind, can you see Subodh Gupta's 'Grapes from Heaven'?

Loving the works of Saif Mhaisen... Here the artist poses next to his alter ego/oil self at Warehouse 421 on its opening night on Thursday.
Boy looks at 'Contemporary Terracotta warriors' by Beijing-based Yue Minjun at Manarat Al Saadiyat. By his signature - facial expression frozen in a wide-toothed laughter - Yue Minjun uses humour to express a turbulent period in modern China. In his words - ‘I paint people laughing, whether it is a big laugh, a restrained laugh, a crazy-laugh, a near-death laugh or simply laughter about our society: laughter can be about anything. Laughter is a moment when our mind refuses to reason. When we are puzzled by certain things, our mind simply doesn’t want to struggle, or perhaps we don’t know how to think, therefore we just want to forget it. in Chinese tradition you can’t say things directly. You have to show something else for the  real meaning. I wanted to show a happy smile and show that behind it is something sad,  and even dangerous.'

This in the name of fine art may look simple or silly but don't underestimate Ai Weiwei please! His childlike vandalism of ancient pots contains a potent political message. In 1994, the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei decorated a Han Dynasty urn with the red Coca-Cola logo; the following year he had himself photographed dropping and smashing another.  Coloured Vases (2009-10), which feature in the show, continue in the same spirit of protestation.

"The particles are in perpetual movement. . . They remind me of the Lebanese people who are constantly on the move," says Hanibal Srouji, who's work Healing Bands was displayed at Art Abu Dhabi 2015

Indian-British sculptor Anish Kapoor's signature bold and far from being detailed and minimalistic piece of work from this edition of Art Abu Dhabi

Abdul Qader Al Rais' work on display at Art Abu Dhabi 2015
Shukran by Iranian artist Farhard Moshiri... is a a large artwork with knives stabbed into plaster to read 'shukran', that means 'thank you' in Arabic. The artist exposes the hypocrisy of world politics where people say thank you with a smile and actually go behind your back and stab! Ouch!

Closeup - Ouch! again.

Like every story, art has three sides. The side you see, the side you don't see and the bluvian side [of course!] :)

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